Wednesday, April 15, 2009

State Income Tax

The New York State income tax is considerably less trouble to compute than the federal income tax. In part this is because you can simply carry over a lot of the entries on the federal return. But it is also because the computation is just simpler. The process does have some irritating features. In recent years New York has required you to copy your W2 information onto their own form instead of attaching the W2. And New York has have stopped mailing the forms (they are still available in public libraries) in an attempt to get you to file electronically.


  1. It may be different in New York, but in California (where I live) the state income tax forms (like the federal forms) can be downloaded over the Internet and then be filled out by typing into one's computer. The forms can be saved, so that new information and changes can be entered during subsequent typing sessions. The resulting documents can be printed and then sent by snail mail in the usual way.

    Like you I balk at paying for programs that help with taxes. There is no excuse for the government not providing such programs for free, especially since they claim that electronic entry is better for them. Their argument is that they should not compete with private industry. If they really think that, then they should stop producing printed forms. I am sure that many businesses would be happy to print and sell the forms at a price. Similarly, the government should provide for transmission of the completed forms over the Internet without involving a third part and at no charge.

  2. If government did what you suggest, odds are they would charge a multiple of what a competitive business (third party) charges you. Remember: you are paying taxes.
    Government providing something for "free" is quite a funny statement!

  3. For several years now I have used TurboTax to prepare my taxes. The program is a great time saver, but until this year I always resisted the e-file option and continued to mail in paper forms. This was partly because I'm cheap (it costs extra) and partly because it annoys me that the IRS charges for something that actually saves them work. But this year TurboTax cunningly bundled the cost of e-filing into the price of the program, so I had no logical reason not to e-file. E-filing was easy to do, and, as promised, I got my refund very quickly.

    TurboTax did not, however, include free e-filing for my California state return. So to save money, I printed and mailed it in. After some delay, they mailed me a check for about $900 less than I was due, claiming to have corrected an error in my return. But they gave no specifics about what this error was supposed to be! So I called them and after a long wait I finally got through to a state tax person and we eventually determined that somebody had made a mistake typing my return into their computer. No apologies of course, but I should eventually get my extra $900. The time I wasted on this was worth far more than the $20 I saved by not e-filing. Perhaps this is how the government will eventually persuade us to stop mailing in our returns.

  4. A day or so ago I by chance learned of the following: Go to .
    Click on "Freefile" in the leftmost column, then on "Choose Fillable Forms", then again on "Choose Fillable Forms", and then on "Leave IRS Site". The info that you have read as you went along indicates that you are now in a position to fill out federal tax forms, get the arithmetic done for you, and make an electronic submission, all for free.

    It would have been nice if this option had been better publicized. I might have used it had I understood that it was available. However, I am a bit put off by the IRS warnings as you leave their website. Also, as I stated in my previous comment to this blog, I would prefer not to have a third party involved. What I would really like is to be able to download the appropriate program and do all the work on my computer, so that any errors and their corrections are completely private, and then send only the final version directly to only the IRS.